I would like to know what is the halachic ruling regarding adverse possesion of property. This is a law which gives the right to change the title on a property after 15 years adverse possesion. The question is what is the halachic status of the land before going through the procedure of changing of title. The question is regarding property that is all owned by Yidden. This question concerns property in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, so it is according to the legislation here in melbourne.
Adverse possession is the process by which a person can receive title to a property without his having affected any legal transfer, or paid any payment. A case in point is the rights of a squatter, who makes “notorious” (open and obvious) use of somebody else’s land or property. The concept of adverse possession favors the use of land over its disuse, and also protects landowners from possible claims of ownership made by ancient heirs of the land.
In halacha, this concept does not exist, and somebody who makes use of property (e.g. a squatter) cannot gain any title on the land without proof that the desertion of the property by the original owner was an intentional abandonment of legal rights. Only upon this condition, and with the performance of a kinyan — a legal act of acquisition performed to transfer the title on the land to the buyer — can he take possession of the land.
In a general sense, merely occupying and making use of somebody else’s land cannot give the squatter any title on the the property. Indeed, if the land belongs to ancient heirs, Torah law would advise the heirs to step forward and make their claim.
[Although halachah does not link usage to ownership, living on a property for a lengthy period of time gives him credibility in a claim to legal ownership. If he claims that he legally bought the land from its previous owner, and he has been living on the land for three years, he is believed. Today, the official listing of property ownership renders this halachah less practical.]